There are two types of music fans in the world. One type, and I'd say they're in the majority, would look at a compilation like this and say "what the hell? I've never heard of any of these bands!" and put it back on the shelf. If you're among this group, then it's time for you to go do something else, because the rest of us have some digging into moldy oldies to do.
Holy hell, what a labor of love! This compilation documents the Texas metal scene of the early-to-mid 1980's, and not the "big" bands from the era (read: bands you've actually heard of). You won't find WATCHTOWER, or S.A. SLAYER, or DEVASTATION here. All of the groups on this comp managed to get a demo recorded, or maybe just a promotional single, in their lifespan, making this a treasure trove straight from John Perez's battered and be-stickered cassette tape case to your ears. Just as an example, check out SENTINEL — the two tracks included here aren't even from a finished demo. The band never even got that far! They're rough practice tapes given to a few friends back in 1986, and that's all that remains of this band. And yet the power and fury of this band is unbelievable — if someone came out right now playing exactly this music, all you retro thrashers would stop disinfecting the used high-tops you bought on eBay long enough to shit your pants and glom on to their 180-gram vinyl release.
And that's just one story among over a dozen that we get here, with songs from demos of varying sonic quality, and liner notes with a personal touch from Perez (who got his start in ROTTING CORPSE, then went on to form SOLITUDE AETURNUS and found the Brainticket label). His enthusiasm for the creative energy of this time is infectious, and his knowledge of the bands' back stories makes digging into these cuts even more enjoyable. This is why CD booklets are important, kiddies — you'll want to spend your first few trips through this comp with the book open, absorbing all the details.
Collections like this are always fun even when the bands are hit-or-miss, just for the nostalgia of it all, but the most surprising thing about Texas Metal Archives, Vol. 1 is the consistently high caliber of these bands. Many of them have classic metal-style vocalists, and they pull off some ludicrous high notes and great melodic verses with aplomb. The embryonic stages of death and black metal are well-represented here, too, with bands like NECROVORE (cited worldwide as a black metal influence) and the insane-o DEATH TRIPPER, whose over-the-top "Canis Major" sounds like Paul Baloff getting into an onstage fistfight with CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER without anyone missing a beat. Stylistically, nothing here will surprise a fan of, say, the mid-'80s Metal Blade roster — but the overall quality of these bands is impressive. Why wasn't anyone signing more of these guys?
I could write a novel here, going into each track and its history, but chances are, you've either already clicked away or you're already salivating and opening another window to order this comp. Do the right thing and support this sort of archival work -- keep in mind, we don't have libraries full of people curating our metal history. Stuff like this exists at all due to the tenacity and passion of a very few people, and without support, projects like this tend to die a death as obscure as these bands' original tapes themselves. If you get giddy at the thought of the heavy metal time travel you're about to do via TEXAS METAL ARCHIVES, VOLUME 1, then vote with your damn wallet to help ensure we're graced with Volume Two, and beyond.